15 Feb 2017

Double track the right track for South Shore

South Shore News

It’s early days, but the effort to make the already-terrific South Shore Railroad even better is on the right track. A double track.

According to a recent Tribune report, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the commuter line, is looking to make improvements that would shorten the trip from South Bend to Chicago from 2½ hours to 90 minutes. “Double Tracking NWI,” as the project is dubbed, would include building a second parallel track for a 17-mile stretch between Michigan City and Gary, removing the tracks from streets in Michigan City and eliminating a stop there. The second track would mean that the train wouldn’t have to stop and wait for oncoming freight trains to pass through.

This idea has been around for while, but what’s new — and encouraging — is the support that’s building around the $290 million project, from Statehouse Republicans to the four counties between Chicago and South Bend, which would have to pitch in about $18.2 million each for construction costs. St. Joseph County Council member Mark Catanzarite, who’s also a member of the NICTD board of directors, calls it the “perfect storm.”
As reported in the Tribune story, St. Joseph County is the one county without a clear plan for generating that money, although officials have talked about using public-private partnerships. It’s also been suggested that the county could fund its share with a bond issue.

But even that concern hasn’t dimmed excitement for the project, which an NICTD official says could change both the level and speed of service. NICTD has estimated that faster travel times could add as many as 5,000 to 8,000 commuters.

The prospects are exciting indeed for the South Shore, a survivor of what was once a vast complex of interurban electric trains. Taking this convenient, economical train line to the next level is an idea whose time, it appears, has finally come. And really, who couldn’t get on board?

 Article by Becky Malewitz - South Bend Tribune. Click here to see the article on NWI Times.